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"THE MEDALLION"
(2003) (Jackie Chan, Claire Forlani) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: After magically being brought back to life, a Hong Kong cop uses his new superhuman powers to try to stop a madman bent on immortality and god-like powers.
PLOT:
Eddie Yang (JACKIE CHAN) is a Hong Kong cop who, along with Interpol agent Arthur Watson (LEE EVANS), is trying to nab an international smuggler known as Snakehead (JULIAN SANDS). Little do they know that he's really after an ancient and magical medallion. Legend has it that when its two halves are brought together in the presence of the chosen one, it can bring immortality and incredible powers to its bearer.

Snakehead nearly acquires both when he finds the medallion and its young keeper, Jai (ALEXANDER BAO), but a raid by Eddie, Watson and their men interrupts him and he flees back to Ireland. Eddie then travels there where he not only meets the perturbed Watson again, but also his former lover, Nicole James (CLAIRE FORLANI), and her boss, Commander Hammerstock-Smythe (JOHN RHYS-DAVIES).

When Eddie ends up dying while saving Jai, however, all hope seems lost. Yet, Jai uses the medallion's powers to bring him back to life, this time with superhuman abilities that amaze even the limber and physically gifted cop. With Snakehead hell-bent on becoming an all-powerful god, Eddie, Nicole and Watson do what they can to stop him and rescue young Jai.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
The biggest and most vicious antagonists in action films aren't the megalomaniacal villains, earth-based or extra-terrestrial monsters, or entire armies. Instead, it's the Grim Reaper and the tag-team duo of Mother Nature and Father Time.

The former obviously ends the careers of action movie stars, while the latter team up to rob the youth, vigor and limberness of them as they inevitably grow older with arthritis and gravity taking their toll. Some such performers, including Arnie and Clint, keep trying to return to their old ways, usually with diminishing returns of credibility.

The one star I hate seeing battle those age-based antagonists is Jackie Chan. Now nearly 50-years-old, the Asian superstar (of the "Rush Hour" and "Shanghai Knights" films) has a legendary history of performing amazing feats of derring-do, and is still probably capable of more than people just half his age.

Yet, he can't win this battle - the arthritis stemming from his numerous injuries has to be mounting - and thus filmmakers and the star himself are starting to take notice. Beyond not doing as many or as spectacular stunts as in the past, his films of recent are starting to use camera tricks, editing or even "wire" technology to get the job done.

That happened in "The Tuxedo" and sadly occurs once again in his latest effort, "The Medallion." The result is like watching Fred Astaire in a music video filled with hundreds of edits to "improve" his dancing. You get the idea, but the effect simply isn't the same.

Of course, the filmmakers this time around - writer/director Gordon Chan ("Cat and Mouse," "Beast Cop") and co-screenwriters Bennett Joshua Davlin (making his debut), Alfred Cheung ("Manhattan Midnight," "Freedom Run Q"), Paul Wheeler ("Souvenir," "Swashbuckler") and Bey Logan (the "Gen-X Cops" movies) - have concocted yet another excuse for such trickery. You see, the exaggerated "stunt work" isn't the result of a special tux as last time around, but rather stems from his character possessing superhuman abilities after magically being brought back to life.

Perhaps with a decent script, the right finesse, and the necessary creative touch that might have proved fruitful. Alas, that's not the case here and the result is like watching a goofy parody of the real thing. Granted, the exaggerated stunts and effects don't occur until the pivotal event transpires about midway through the proceedings, but even before then one can see the wire work (where wires - which are later erased from the picture - help lift and otherwise move around the star).

I've never been a fan of such obvious fakery. Nevertheless, it and most of the rest of the action/fight/stunt scenes are handled in such a ham-fisted fashion by Gordon Chan and "action director" Sammo Hung (star of TV's "Martial Law") that there's nary an ounce of enjoyment to be had from any of it. That's particularly true of the jumpy slow motion footage that permeates the second half and makes everything look like a cheaply produced video game.

Beyond the fact that the action is second-rate and forced, most of the film's attempts at humor - namely Lee Evans ("There's Something About Mary," "Mouse Hunt") playing a bumbling Interpol agent - also fall flat. While there are a few moments that elicited a chuckle or actual laugh from me (including a scene with a knife, an immortal person and a fainting nurse), the majority don't work, including the use of exaggerated and goofy add-on sound effects.

To make matters worse, the film never comfortably and/or successfully settles on its tone, and the action-comedy mixture just doesn't work. Whether it's the incredibly mismatched soundtrack, out of place scenes that come out of nowhere (including a cooking montage set to "Twist and Shout"), or the erratic pacing and momentum, the effort is a jumbled mess from start to finish.

Performances are rote for a film like this. While Chan still exudes some of his naturally winning charm (such as when he says that, yes, experimental knife jabs into his body still hurt despite being immortal), he simply can't do much with his poorly written character.

The same holds true for Claire Forlani ("Boys and Girls," "Meet Joe Black") who basically takes the place of Jennifer Love Hewitt from "The Tuxedo" (gorgeous babe who can kick butt as well), while Evans is forced to wade through some embarrassing and unfortunately corny material. The less said about Julian Sands ("Time Code," "Leaving Las Vegas") playing the requisite, one dimensional, megalomaniacal villain the better.

If the rest of the lame and poorly executed material in the film wasn't enough proof that things are bad, even the outtakes - usually some of the most fun moments and material in any Chan film - are a boring letdown. That's the result of so few real stunts being performed, a point that ruins that end credit footage and the rest of the film. Coupled with bad direction and writing, this is an embarrassing and instantly forgettable Jackie Chan flick. "The Medallion" rates as just a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed August 19, 2003 / Posted August 25, 2003


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